Bullard's versatility important for 2014

Jonathan Bullard wasn't excited about a move to defensive tackle, but he made the move after Dominique Easley tore his ACL last season and split time between end and tackle. After playing exclusively at defensive tackle in the spring to get him more used to the position, the coaches expect to use his versatility to their advantage during the 2014 season.

Bullard came to Gainesville in the same recruiting class as Dante Fowler, giving the Gators two of the top defensive ends in the country. That changed out of necessity last season when Dominique Easley tore his ACL, pushing Bullard inside to play tackle.

And he didn't enjoy it. Bullard took the team-first approach by trying to help the Gators with the move, but it was different and something he didn't imagine to be doing when he signed with Florida. His 6-3, 270-pound frame gives him the size to hang with bigger interior offensive linemen.

It took time for him to learn the position and the different techniques that come with being an inside player. That's why this spring was so important for him. He had only 2.5 tackles for a loss last season but has the speed to be more disruptive than that.

The spring was important for him to learn how to harness it. His speed is an important asset of playing inside, causing issues for guards and centers usually weighing over 300 pounds. After making an impact blowing up plays off the edge, Bullard is now learning how to do that from the inside of the defensive line.

"It's actually easier to do that inside because you blow one man up, the other one is pulling right there," Bullard said. "It's easier to blow it up inside if you have the strength to do it, which I do."

The spring helped him pick up tidbits from defensive line coach Brad Lawing about the tackle position.

"I've got it down," Bullard said. "As it went on, it was hard. At the end of the season, I got more comfortable. Now that spring ball is here and I'm repping it, taking on a double team, I know what to expect and how to handle it."

The move looked permanent during the spring since he was working exclusively at tackle, but Will Muschamp said after the season that he'll split time between defensive tackle and defensive end.

"Jon Bullard can play inside but we get a little thin on the edges when he's playing inside and he's a really good nickel rusher, so we'll continue to look at that," Muschamp said.

Fowler is Florida's only proven pass rusher off the edge when Bullard is pushed inside. Bryan Cox, Jr. had a breakout spring, and his production in the fall could be the deciding factor on where Bullard sees a majority of his snaps. If he can't handle it, Bullard might move back outside full time for his junior season and slide inside only in pass situations.


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